Home Blog Page 77

Up and coming guitarist on Naxos

Our Bargain of the Month for September comes from the Naxos label and provides great background listening. It features a potential future star of the classical guitar world, Xianji Liu. In 2016, Xianji Liu became the first Chinese-born winner of the celebrated Francisco Tárrega International Guitar Competition.

Since then his career has developed steadily with appearances around Europe and the United States in addition to the many recitals he has given in China.

On this CD he performs a range of transcriptions and works written specifically for the guitar. Most of them are fairly trivial works, but they make for great easy listening! Liu is able to exhibit various styles in the chosen pieces; at times jazzy, sultry and full of Spanish style as appropriate to the piece being performed. The Scarlatti Harpsichord Sonata (K146), transcribed here for guitar is especially pleasing.

The CD also includes Lennox Berkeley’s Sonatina, Op. 52, No. 1 (1957) which was dedicated to the great Julian Bream. This is a work that beneath its elegance requires the performer to face some very strenuous technical demands – Xianji Liu takes these in his stride!


CD of the Month – September

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in this month’s top choice. They bring us excellent live accounts of the five symphonies of Mendelssohn.

These are not traditional accounts of the Mendelssohn symphonies. Nézet-Séguin takes a fresh look at these works and gets a lean sound from the orchestra. Indeed Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe play the music as the composer intended it to be played, seeking meaning and relevance within the scores.

If you are seeking a complete set of the symphonies then this is unbeatable.


In memory of Albert Roussel

Albert Roussel (1869-1937) was a French composer who spent seven years in the French Navy, before turning to music at the age of 25. He died eighty years ago today so it seems appropriate to highlight some of his key works.

Roussel’s early work was strongly influenced by impressionism, though he eventually developed a personal style. His later compositions are  more formal in design and are typically exhibit a strong rhythmic drive. His most significant works are his vibrant and pictorial ballets Le festin de l’araignée, Bacchus et Ariane, and Aeneas and his four symphonies. Indeed his Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 must rank among the finest French symphonies.

Roussel is unlikely to ever attain the popularity of Debussy or Ravel, as his work lacks sensuous appeal, but much of his work is well worth listening to. This excellent recording of the complete Bacchus et Ariane and his Symphony No. 3 available on the bargain Naxos label provides a good introduction to Roussel’s work. Stéphane Denève and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra give a good account of both pieces. Listen to the recording and you will hear quite a lot of melodic subtlety coming through the thick orchestral palette.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 – Second work in our collection

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C major, Op. 67 is an extremely popular work. It contains one of the most famous openings in all of classical music; one that springs at you and seemingly grabs you by the throat. This was Beethoven taking the Classical symphony to places it had never gone before!

This work which introduces trombones, piccolos and contrabassoons to the orchestra (alien to typical Viennese ensembles of the early 19th century) had a huge effect on its contermporary audiences. We cannot experience the shock of it today as they did, since they had never before heard anything like it, but it a good performance still makes an impression on the listener.

In this symphony, Beethoven lays bare his inner struggles. There is much conflict in this music; conflict that ultimately gets resolved in the splendid finale. The finale grows seemingly from a pinpoint of light until it seems to fill the universe only to be questioned once more. Finally the symphony ends in C major with all conflict resolved – for the moment, at least!

There are many fine performances of this work but non can quite match the glorious recording of Carlos Kleiber directing the splendid Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra of the 1970s.

View the other works in our collection.